Changing careers? What are your options?

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Are you considering a career change? Or do you know someone who is?

I met Maggie at a job club for job seekers. Maggie was a corporate trainer with over 15 years of experience at an insurance company. Maggie lost her job a year ago during a round of budget cuts and company layoffs. While she has been actively looking for work for the past year, she is still struggling to find a job. As a result, Maggie is considering changing careers. She needs to find work, and she is exhausted from the job search process. Maggie wants to know what her options are.

Maggie was just one of many people in the room that night who shared a similar story. Perhaps you are one of them. Or maybe you have a close friend or family member who is asking similar questions. I am going to share with you three questions you can ask, to guide your way through the process of identifying a new career for you.

 

3 Questions to Change Careers

1. What can I do?

If you have invested time and energy into building a solid career for yourself, this question can feel overwhelming. When answering this question, there is a strong temptation to look for jobs that are similar to the one you are leaving. In Maggie’s case, she kept trying to identify other jobs a corporate trainer could do. For Maggie, that left her thinking all she could do was corporate training.

The best way to answer this question is to focus on identifying your capabilities. One way to do that is to think back over your career and identify the projects and work assignments you are proud of and enjoyed doing. For each project, write out a story or description for yourself about the experience. Describe what you did, where you did it, and who you did it with. Get a trusted friend or coach to help you sift through your stories and make a list of the strengths and skills you used. Take note of any patterns and themes you see.

 

2. What do I need from a job or career?

Once you know what your capabilities are, that is your strengths, skills, and passions, it is tempting to try to identify right away other jobs you can do. But when you do that, you skip a practical component of choosing a new job or career: Identifying what you need. Consider your financial needs. How much money do you need to take home? Do you need insurance coverage? How far are you willing to commute? How much time are you willing to travel for work? Are you willing to pursue a degree, certification, or other education? Are there other things you need from a company or career? Make a list of your non-negotiable requirements of a job.

Maggie has a mortgage to pay, and needs medical insurance for herself and her children. She also needs a certain level of income to pay for the needs of her family, and cannot travel more than 25% of the year. These elements are critical for Maggie, and for you, to select the right next job or career path.

 

3. What are my options?

Finally! You get to look for job ideas. Only now you have a list of strengths and skills, and a list of needs, that allow you to generate realistic options. Once again, take your lists and sit down with your trusted friend or coach and brainstorm job ideas. Use your strengths and skills list to do some online searches on job boards, such as www.indeed.com, and job matching resources, like www.onetonline.org. Discover what jobs are available that use your skills. Once you have a list of jobs, you can use your list of non-negotiable job requirements to identify which jobs might be realistic and satisfying alternatives for you.

Maggie’s current list of job ideas includes: technical writing, corporate communications, and human resources. Her next step is to research her options and update her job search materials to target her new direction.

 

It is tempting to try to identify job options without answering all three questions. It is much easier if you take things one step, one question, at a time. If you are contemplating a career change, I encourage you to begin with these questions. Your stories will inspire others, so I invite you to share them on my blog.

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Client Stories

Lori took my old, tired, out of date resume and transformed it into a resume which got results.  In transitioning from owning a business back to the corporate world, Lori asked the tough questions to dig out all the relevant skills and accomplishments which would catch the eye of a potential employer.   One of the first employers to receive my new resume and customized cover letter (created by Lori) called me for a phone interview, followed by a face to face meeting, and finally offered me a job twenty-four hours after the interview.  I'm convinced I would not have even been able to get my foot in the door without my new resume created by Lori.  As I told my wife, retrospectively, spending the money to work with Lori was well worth it.

Howard Kier, Evanston, IL